Get to know Stanford swimming’s stellar incoming freshmen

Sept. 28, 2022, 10:44 a.m.

Going into the 2022-2023 season, the Stanford men’s and women’s swim teams are coming off formidable performances. 

The women’s team, boosted by then-freshmen Olympians Regan Smith and Torri Huske, bounced back from their ninth-place finish at the NCAA Championships in 2021 to finish third this past March. The Cardinal also reclaimed the Pac-12 title after their four-year win streak was disrupted by Cal last year. Similarly, the men’s team showed improvement by finishing seventh at NCAAs, their highest placing since 2018. The result was preceded by a solid Pac-12 showing, where they led into the last day of the meet, ultimately falling to Cal but still taking second. Rising sophomore Andrei Minakov shone at NCAAs to give Stanford its first individual national title in four years.

Here is a look at some of the dynamic incoming freshmen in the Class of 2026 who will take to the water at the Avery Aquatic Center for the first time this fall.

Women’s Team

Claire Curzan — Cary, North Carolina

Curzan is not only one of the top incoming freshmen swimmers on The Farm — she’s also the number one Class of 2022 women’s swimming recruit in the entire nation. A 2020 Olympian, Curzan is coming off winning five medals at last month’s FINA World Aquatics Championships. 

Along with her competitive experience internationally, the biggest asset she brings to the Cardinal pool is her versatility.

Curzan has nation-leading times for her class in seven different events (50/100/200 freestyle, 100/200 backstroke, 100/200 butterfly), and will look to make a huge impact for the Stanford squad. Not only are her times the fastest in her recruiting class, but they can also hold their own on a national level. She briefly held the American record in the 100-yard butterfly with a time of 49.24, and her best times in three events, the 100/200 backstroke and the 200 butterfly, would have placed top three at the 2022 NCAA Championships. In addition to her individual performances, Curzan will likely be a lethal weapon on Stanford’s relays. 

The question for this upcoming season will be how to maximize her strengths to fit the three individual and four relay event quota at NCAAs. But Curzan has demonstrated the potential to score big for the Cardinal and help them win their first national title since 2019.

Charlotte Hook — Raleigh, North Carolina

Hook swam for the same club team as Curzan, the TAC Titans, and is ranked No. 2 nationally in the high school class of 2022 behind her teammate. She has the top time for her year in the 200-yard individual medley (1:52.72) and the second-fastest time in the 200-yard butterfly (1:52.72). Having posted three best times (200/400 IM, 200 fly) that would have been fast enough to qualify for finals at the 2022 NCAA Championships, Hook has multi-event scoring potential for Stanford and will be a major boost to the depth of the team. 

In addition to her evident collegiate promise, Hook also has experience on the international stage. She won silver in the 200-meter butterfly at the 2021 World Short Course Championships, and just missed out on qualifying for the 2020 Olympic and 2022 World Championships teams by finishing third at both the 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials and the 2022 International Team Trials.

Lucy Bell — Fort Collins, Colorado

Bell is another incoming freshman who will further bolster Stanford’s growing butterfly strength. As the No. 7-ranked recruit in the class of 2022, she has solid times in the 100/200-yard butterfly and the 200/400-yard individual medley that could put her in scoring contention at the Pac-12 and NCAA Championships. Bell’s 100 fly time of 51.83 is the second-fastest in her year, just behind Curzan. That time was set at the 2022 Speedo Sectionals this past March when she took 0.82 seconds off her previous best mark of 52.65 — showing that she still has a lot of potential to improve and get faster.

On the last day of the 2022 NCAA Championships, Texas beat out Stanford by a slim margin of 6.5 points for second place largely due to their significant advantage in the butterfly events. Stanford will look to stars like Bell and Hook to assist them in closing this gap. 

Men’s Team

Zheir Fan — Plano, Texas

Fan is the top breaststroker in the Class of 2022. He set massive best times this year at the 2022 Speedo Sectionals, going from 53.36 to 52.97 in the 100-yard breaststroke and 1:56.99 to 1:52.92 in the 200-yard breaststroke. Both of those times are the fastest in his class. In addition, his 100/200 breast times would have scored at the 2022 Pac-12 Championships, while his 200 breast time would have done the same at this year’s NCAAs.

For the Cardinal, Fan brings additional breaststroke depth, as his times in the 100 and 200 breaststroke would have been third on the Stanford roster in both events last season. With Stanford’s fastest breaststroker last year, Daniel Roy, having just graduated and unconfirmed for a fifth year on the team, Fan can help bolster the Cardinal’s breaststroke performance.

Before setting foot on campus this fall, Fan will also gain additional experience competing internationally. The Texan is slated to represent the United States at the 2022 Junior Pan Pacific Championships in August, swimming the 100-meter breaststroke.

Liam Custer — Osprey, Florida

Perhaps Custer’s biggest standout feature is his 1650-yard freestyle. In December 2020, he broke the 15-16 U.S. National Age group record in the event, clocking a time of 14:37.86. Moreover, Custer also has the fastest times in the 500-yard (4:18.49) and 1000-yard (8:51.37) freestyles, all of which contribute to his No. 3 ranking in the Class of 2022.

His times speak for themselves when compared to the Floridian’s future collegiate competition. Custer’s 1650 free time would have placed ninth at the 2022 NCAAs and won the Pac-12 Championships, while his 500 free time would have been good enough for 13th at Pac-12s. His best mark in the 1650 is also faster than any of Stanford’s 1650 freestylers managed last season. 

Although Custer swam for the Sarasota Sharks swim club in Florida, he has international experience representing Ireland and most recently competed at the 2022 European Junior Championships.

Josh Zuchowski — Jupiter, Florida

As the No. 2-ranked recruit and the best backstroker in the Class of 2022, Zuchowski brings in times of 46.86 and 1:41.20 in the 100 and 200-yard backstrokes respectively. These results vault him to third on Stanford’s depth chart in both events, while his 200 back would have placed eighth at the 2022 Pac-12 Championships.

Zuchowski will compete alongside his future teammate Fan at the 2022 Junior Pan Pacific Championships, and is set to swim the 100 and 200-meter backstroke events. He rounds out a talented recruiting class that brings both skill and invaluable international experience to the Farm.

All swimming stats and times are courtesy of swimcloud.com.

Yanyan Li is a high schooler writing as part of the Daily's Summer Journalism Workshop. Contact them at workshop 'at' stanforddaily.com.

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